From 1958 until around 1977 the relatively unknown East German artist Hermann Glöckner produced a perplexing body of work: a collection of small neoconstructivist objects made by folding, cutting, and joining discarded wood, consumerist packaging, and deconstructed household objects into geometric structures. Assembled from such things as matchboxes, washing powder packets, old medicine packaging, split-open coffee pots, lacquered paper, and wire, Glöckner's constructions resemble maquettes for large-scale sculptures never to be realized. Their appearance suggests a hybrid aesthetic, a kind of Cold War meeting between the Soviet constructivist relief models of Vladimir Tatlin or the experiments of Aleksandr Rodchenko and the appropriated consumerist detritus of American pop art (less the smooth serialized screen prints of Andy Warhol than the assemblages of Robert Rauschenberg or Edward Kienholz). This essay explores Glöckner's miniature modernist monuments, contextualizing his practice in relation to the conflicted reception of modernism and the historical scant grade in the German Democratic Republic and its so-called niche society. It examines Glöckner's practice alongside the mass utopias of both consumerism and communism, considering these objects in the context of the history of Soviet constructivism and the nonofficial practices to emerge later in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s.
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February 1, 2017
Sarah E. James; Hermann Glöckner: Waste as a Figure of Thought?. New German Critique 1 February 2017; 44 (1 (130)): 169–203. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0094033X-3705748
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